Game of Thrones MMORPG screenshot

I blogged about this over at Suvudu, so head there for the details, but I just wanted to chime in here with some more detailed and persnickity thoughts about the recently announced MMORPG based on George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire.

The gist, from Venturebeat:

Martin and HBO spilled the news about the game last year, but Bigpoint hasn’t had a chance to show off its work until now. Bigpoint’s new web site for the game offers you the chance to sign up and “die for your house.”

Bigpoint grew big as a browser-based game publisher in Hamburg, Germany, but in the past couple of years it has expanded into the U.S. and moved its headquarters to San Francisco. The company will show a sneak peek of the game, a browser-based massively multiplayer online role-playing game (an MMORPG that doesn’t require a long download) at the upcoming Game Developers Conference next week in San Francisco.

The game will be set in the fictional medieval world of Westeros and its Seven Kingdoms, where summers can last for decades and winters can last a lifetime.

First of all, it’s nice to see Martin’s series continuing to get recognition and attention from the videogame world, but doesn’t he deserve better? The MMORPG is being developed by BigPoint, the illustrious developer of such legendary titles as Drakensang Online, Lord of Ultima and, most convincing of all, Zoomumba. Now, I know George has to eat, but wouldn’t it behoove him and Bantam Spectra to do a bit of quality control before licensing out the IP to just anyone? Is a browser-based MMORPG really the best fit for the series? And does this move to (probably) free-to-play browser-based model suggest that the Game of Thrones MMORPG will be adopting a more socially-driven nature (as seen in many of BigPoint’s other games), as opposed to a more solid, deeply considered structure like the other MMORPGs that gamers actually give a damn about? Why not look towards Turbine’s successful MMORPG adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings for inspiration? At least BigPoint’s other browser-based MMORPGs look good, regardless of how they might play.

Secondly, do we really want to traipse around Westeros? Sure, there are some nice vistas and interesting cities in A Song of Ice and Fire, but the real heart of Martin’s series lies in the twisting political landscape that drives the plot of the novels forward. How does BigPoint expect to represent that dynamic? In my Suvudu article I suggest that we might see gameplay similar to the Mount and Blade series, which puts players in the role a single foot soldier amongst many in the middle of battles that are of a similar scale to what Martin deals with, which sounds cool, but is that enough to sustain an MMORPG? Do we really want to spend our time as a sellsword running around the outskirts of Riverrun collecting rat tails for Hoster Tully?

There are a lot of questions here, and few answers, but in the light of Cyanide’s recent strategy game (which, by all accounts, is as bad as it looked pre-release) and their upcoming single-player RPG (which looks only marginally better than the strategy game), it’s beginning to feel like a once sacred cow is about to be slaughtered to feed the masses. I’ll miss the Westeros I used to know.

The website for the game is already live.

  • Adam Whitehead March 2, 2012 at 3:48 pm

    There is a vital point you are missing out here: the game is NOT based on ‘George R.R. Martin’s A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE’, it’s based on ‘HBO’s GAME OF THRONES TV series’. Rights to computer games based on the TV series (not the books) were included with the TV rights that GRRM sold to HBO.

    It’s an important point as it was HBO’s decision to go with these guys, to make it a browser-based game and to make the decisions it’s made. Clearly HBO has made these choices to ensure a relatively quick release and return (making a proper MMORPG would take 4+ years, by which time the show might be over) and to cash in on the show whilst its acclaim is at its height. It’s not an artistically satisfying reason, but a profit-based one.

    If you want to complain about GRRM selling the book game rights to Cyanide, whose track record suggested that GENESIS would be utter rubbish and so it proved, that’s fair enough :-)

  • aidan March 2, 2012 at 5:08 pm

    Rights to computer games based on the TV series (not the books) were included with the TV rights that GRRM sold to HBO.

    Interesting. I knew that the game was based on the show, didn’t realize that those rights lay with HBO. All of a sudden, this makes a lot more sense.